Yes, we all know the story: rich, beloved, only child loses her parents and becomes a servant to her witchy step mother and obnoxious step sisters. Then she meets Prince Charming at the ball and they fall in love and live happily ever after. Blah blah blah. Right?
Well, yes, but, the new Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James and Cate Blanchett is much more than the cliche fairytale every girl knows by heart. This remake of a classic is every bit as colorful, whimsical and magical as the most epic of fables, including the friendly animals, yet the central characters and their relationships are bursting with down to earth, authentic virtues and vices.
Lily James is believable as Ella, the lovely and innocent daughter of wealthy parents who have raised her to be deeply good. Ella’s mother, as she is dying, implores her daughter to “have courage and be kind,” for this will be the powerful rudder that steers her through every hardship. Ella takes this to heart and it becomes the mantra of the whole film. When death takes her father from her and leaves her to the cruelty of her grasping and bitter step mother (Cate Blanchett), she bravely stays to care for the home that was her family’s and to return every slight with kindness. In the final moments when Ella cannot stand by any longer but confronts her stepmother with an impassioned “Why are you so cruel?” she cannot but respond “because you are so innocent and good.”
Perhaps the most striking element of this moving and gorgeous film is the truly human portrayal of an orphaned girl determined not to lose hope, who is genuinely courageous and kind. It is a rare film that can capture this without becoming saccharine, yet Cinderella does just that. Watch this with the whole family, this is a must see, particularly for women and girls of all ages.